Although their contributions are within the same perspective, in what ways is the theory of Spencer different from that of Comte?

Topics: Sociology, Human, Anthropology Pages: 6 (2100 words) Published: October 27, 2013
Sociology can be defined as the study of the relationship between the individual and society systematically. Sociology focuses on how social relationships influence people’s attitudes and behaviours and how people are affected y social institutions. Social evolution is a theory that states that social traits are selected over time and gradually develop into behavioural or social norms. Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer both had theories on social evolution which impact greatly upon Sociology as a social science. Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer were two of sociology’s first great theorists. Both Comte and Spencer studied society and the many ways in which people in society interact. Both theorists agree on certain issues pertaining to society and social science, yet they completely differ on their views of the function of sociology. Spencer and Comte both realize that there is an order of co-existence in society. Society itself is made up of several components and parts which are subject to change and progress, thus altering society as a whole with these changes. Comte's aim was to create a naturalistic science of society, which would both explain the past development of mankind and predict its future course. In addition to building a science capable of explaining the laws of motion that govern humanity over time, Comte attempted to formulate the conditions that account for social stability at any given historical moment. Comte taught that in order for man to transform his nonhuman environment to his advantage, he must know the laws that govern the natural world. In a like manner, social action beneficial to mankind will become possible once the laws of motion of human evolution are established, and the basis for social order and civic concord is identified. As long as men believed that social actions followed no law and were, in fact, arbitrary and fortuitous, they could take no concerted action to remodel their lot. Under these circumstances men naturally clashed with one another in the pursuit of their differing individual interests. When this was the case, a Hobbesian model of society, in which only power and the willing acceptance of power permit order, seemed appropriate and plausible. Comte referred to this as “social dynamics” which is the study of the conditions and pre-conditions of social order. Applying what he conceived to be a method of scientific comparison through time, Comte emerged with his central conception, The Law of Human Progress or The Law of Three Stages. Each of the leading conceptions, each branch of our knowledge, passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological or fictitious; the Metaphysical or abstract; and the Scientific or positive. Comte argued that the human mind, individual human beings, all knowledge, and world history develop through three successive stages. The theological stage is dominated by a search for the essential nature of things, and people come to believe that all phenomena are created and influenced by gods and supernatural forces. Monotheism is the ultimate belief of the theological stage. The metaphysical stage is a transitional stage in which mysterious, abstract forces replace supernatural forces as the powers that explain the workings of the world. The positivist stage is the last and highest stage in Comte's work. In this stage, people search for invariant laws that govern all of the phenomena of the world. Although Comte focused mainly on stages in the development and progressive emancipation of the human mind, he stressed that these stages correlated with parallel stages in the development of social organization, of types of social order, of types of social units, and of the material conditions of human life. All these, he thought, evolved in similar manner as the changes in progressive mental developments. In order to supplement his theory of stages, Comte set out to investigate the foundations of social stability. The...

References: Comte, Auguste. 1896. The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte.
Comte, Auguste
Coser, Lewis A. 1977. Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context.
2d ed
Peel, J. D. Y. 1974. “Spencer and the Neo-evolutionists.“ Pp. 188-209 in Theories and
Paradigms in Contemporary Sociology
Spencer, Herbert. 1897. The Principles of Sociology, Part VIII.
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